Sorry ... this post is going to be sooo long today because I have so much to share with you.
Many of you know that I went to South Carolina to see our youngest son, Reese, graduate from Basic Training in the Army. It was an amazing experience and one that I wish all of you could experience. Reese's girlfriend, Laura, and I flew together, rented a car, and shared a room to help cut down on expenses. I wish that my hubby could have gone but we didn't have enough FF miles for the both of us to attend. He would have gone but he wouldn't have been comfortable sharing a room with Laura! :)
We arrived in the afternoon and checked into our hotel, which was lovely by the way, a Marriott Courtyard. I placed a bid on Priceline for $50 a night and was accepted. Not too bad, considering that the rooms were going for over $100 a night. I took our GPS system with us so we had a ball discovering Ft. Jackson and Columbia. We headed out to the base to get our bearings and to see if by chance we could go on base. Sure enough ... they let us in and gave us a pass for a few days for Family Day. Ft. Jackson is HUGE .... miles and miles of post. We had NO idea where Reese was staying and he hadn't been given access to his cell phone so we just drove around base, hoping to see him crossing the road. Yeah right! There were thousands of soldiers crossing the road, dressed all in the same uniform, and they ALL looked like Reese!
After spending some time wandering around on the base we received a phone call from Reese who tried to describe where he was. Since they haven't had cars and had to walk everywhere he had no idea what road he was on. But he described what he could see out his barracks. And lo and behold we found him! We weren't able to stop the car and get out and chat, but we both screamed when we saw him on the back porch of his barracks. We waved and kept on driving. Didn't want to get him in trouble with the Drill Sargeant!
The next morning we arrived at a field to see some pre-graduation exercises for Family Day. I had just told Laura that quite a few people questioned why Reese would want to join the Army and how I felt about his decision. I told her that my son shouldn't be an exception to serving in the military to protect my freedom and that I was proud that he chose this path. Shortly after that comment, loud bombs starting going off in the distance and soldiers started running across the field with their weapons. With a horrified look on my face and my heart in my stomach I turned to Laura and said, "I changed my mind. I don't want him to have to go through this!" And then I started to cry. I wish words could describe the scene that took place and the feelings in my heart as I watched 1200 young men and women running across the field in the similitude of battle. And of course they had music playing which always makes my emotions run higher!
Remember the books, Where's Waldo? Well kidlets, see if you can find Reese. Laura spotted him right away. If she hadn't been there I don't think I could have ever spotted him.
This is our first real glimpse of Reese after the cermonies. We were in the bleachers coming down to meet him. We both screamed because he has lost SOOO much weight! Ladies and gents ... if you need to lose weight fast, join basic training and they'll knock it off of you in a heartbeat! He's lost about 45 pounds and looks amazing. His uniform hung off of him. His pants were cinched as far as they would go.
It rained every day we were there for a short while in the afternoon. I thought this was an amazing picture of a soldier out in the field during the rain. Reese mentioned that 11 soldiers have been killed by lightening in Ft. Jackson so the army takes thunder and lightening very seriously and provides cover for them.
This is an amazing story of encouragement and support from your platoon. Private Fitch is a high school student from Kentucky doing his Basic Training during the summer. He's just a young kid, never been out of his home town and missed his mother dearly. He even wore a picture of his mother around his neck. He had the cutest souther accent and really admired Reese. While he was in training he got word that his grandfather had passed away. He really had a hard time and Reese took him under his wing and supported him.
When it came time for Fitch to take his Physical Test to pass Basic Training he failed miserably. He had never been physically active prior to his training. He only had a day to improve his scores and pass the test. At 4:30 the next morning he was supposed to meet at the field to take his tests. His entire platoon got up at 4:30 and went with him to the field. As he was running the track, his platoon would take turns running with him, encouraging him on. They continued to do this for the sit-ups and push-ups, and Private Fitch passed his Physical Test with the help and encouragement of his platoon!
They have a beautiful temple in Columbia. They are only open for a few sessions an evening. We weren't able to fit it into our schedule to attend but at least we got to see it. It was a beautiful evening with the sun just going down. Columbia is really a beautiful place!
Reese's pretty girlfriend, Laura. How we love her! We had a fabulous time with each other.
I asked Reese what that was all about and he said that he was just messing with him and that's what they do all of the time. Reese really enjoyed his Drill Sargeant. One day they were talking about Mormons and his DS told him that he had many mormon friends but they didn't live their religion. He asked Reese if he lived his religion and Reese told him 'very much so'! The last night we were at the barracks telling Reese goodbye and the DS was staring at Reese and Laura and it made Reese really nervous. Later that evening Reese asked the DS why he was staring at them. He replied that he was just putting on an act for the parents. Reese asked again why he was staring and the DS said, "Private Hansen, are you still living your religion?" "Yes, Drill Sargeant, very much so!", replied Reese. The DS said, "Very good!" Quite often the religious boys get picked on but Reese said that his platoon knew that he was LDS from the start and didn't swear. They were quite respective of him ... perhaps it was his size!
When we flew home there were 4 Drill Sargeants sitting in front of us! I about died when I saw their hats. I finally got brave and started talking with one of them. He was from Utah and is LDS and they had just finished their training to be Drill Sargeants. I asked him if it was necessary to talk filthy to the soldiers. He told me that the Army actually tells them not to, but most of them do it anyway. I then told him what the DS did to Reese's platoon on their last night before shipping out to their Advanced Training. (He made them detail his barracks and personal car!) This Drill Sargeant told me that that wasn't right and he would never do that to his men!
On Saturday Reese left for Ft. Eustis, Virginia in Newport News for his training as a crew chief on the Apache helicopter. He actually arrived in Virginia, by bus, before we had even left SC! Right now he's waiting for his classes to start. They have to wait until they have enough soldiers for the class as well as wait for the class in front of them to graduate. I learned something about the Army that I was really disappointed in ... they don't start anything on time. Reese said that the Army is known for hurrying up and waiting. There was a young solider sitting behind us on the plane who said that he had been waiting for three months to go home from his Advanced Training. He was through with his classes but the army had messed up his paperwork and it had been 11 months since he had seen his family!
O.K. ... you're probably bored out of your gord with all of this army talk and pictures! Last night was amazing! I was invited to participate in a shoe box swap for Dawn Rapsas and her group. It was so much fun uniting with many demonstrators and getting loves and hugs. And it was my first shoe box swap as a demonstrator. Geez ... it was alot of work putting together 60 cards for the event. Now I know what you all go through for the events ... even though some of you make 100's of swaps! It was fun connecting with demonstrators who I've met through my blog too.
I have another big night planned for this evening. Many of you asked if I would miss convention. The answer is 'no'. I don't miss convention ... I miss you! And thanks to many of you who have invited me to dinners and events that you are having, thanks a gazillion. This is just what I needed to get my demonstrator fix!
Love to you all! I'll talk about weight loss tomorrow and post pictures!